South African champion Daryl Impey stormed to his debut Tour de France victory in style on stage nine into Brioude. On Bastille Day, the 34-year-old made it into the decisive break of the day and proved to be the strongest in the 15-man move, eventually taking the victory in a two-up sprint.
172 riders took the start of stage 9 in Saint-Etienne. Polka dot jersey holder Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) was first to attack after the drop of the flag but Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) was the first to make a gap for himself.
Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale), Ivan Garcia Cortina and Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida), Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Romain Sicard (Total Direct Energie), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic) then rode away at km 14.
Marc Soler (Movistar) counter-attacked by himself and made the junction 1.2km before the summit of the very steep Mur d’Aurec (km 36.5) where Benoot gave Lotto-Soudal their 18th KOM victory since the start of the Tour de France. Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) also attacked solo from the peloton and came within 25″ of the leading group but couldn’t bridge the gap and waited for the pack.
The deficit of the peloton was 8’50″ at the Mur d’Aurec and a time gap of 10’49″ was recorded at km 47, after which Deceuninck-Quick Step maintained it just above ten minutes. Boasson Hagen won the intermediate sprint at Arlanc (km 92). Clarke was then first to attack from the front group with 62km to go. Garcia Cortina did so as well with 45km to go but following his move in a non-categorized climb, Pöstleberger found himself alone in the lead 42km before the end while the peloton let the gap increase.
The Austrian was caught on the last categorised climb of the day with 15km to go. Roche and Benoot attacked from the leading group reduced to seven riders. Impey came then across and passed first at the Côte de St-Just with 13km remaining.
Benoot and Impey rode clear 7km before the end while Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) attacked on the Côte de St-Just but Team Ineos was prompt to bring them back.
Up front, Benoot and Impey shared the turns to avoid the return of their former breakaway companions. Benoot took the initiative of launching the sprint but Impey proved to be the fastest, becoming the first rider to win a Tour de France stage with the South Africa national champion’s jersey.
Dary Impey: “That is pretty much for me, from the Tour de France perspective, something that was really missing and this is my seventh time riding the Tour de France. I’ve been in quite a few breakaways and to finally nail it today, it’s just a dream come true, I really don’t have any words.”
“It was a stage I kind of marked for a breakaway, yesterday was a bit unfortunate as the break went straight away and today we were pretty active, Luke and Matteo were active at the start. I just kind of found the lucky move, I didn’t have to do too much to get in there, then we all just worked really well together and I kind of just believed in myself and played it quite smart there at the end I think.”
“I haven’t actually been that emotional at the finish for a long time, so it’s fantastic to win at this level, the Tour de France. I think the last stage victory for South Africa was Robbie Hunter in 2007, so it’s been a long time between drinks and to win on Bastille Day that’s fantastic, that’s a magic memory.”
“This is a dream come true, this is something I really wanted to do and you know it’s so difficult at this level, so when all the stars line up like they did today, I can’t be any prouder, it’s fantastic and I know South Africa will be cheering on and thanks to my family as well, they’ve supported me the whole way through this.”